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Rank and bile: Taxi association denies PR campaign has backfired as customers and cabbies take aim at each other

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 | By Mark Kearney

Just days after launching a new public relations blitz marking a new phase in the fight against ride-sharing app Uber, the Victorian taxi industry has been swamped by complaints from disgruntled customers.


On Monday the taxi association announced a new tactic and abandoned industrial action and campaigning against its tech-savvy rival in favour of adapting and responding to customer concerns.


As The Guardian reports, the Victorian Taxi Association says it will now be listening to the critics.


“In 2015, if we’re not providing a service people want to use, then the amount of competition will see our industry decline,” association chief executive David Samuel told The Guardian.


“We won’t let that occur. We’ve been around for about 150 years and have responded to many challenges over that time, and we’ll do it again.”


But the first PR tactic hasn’t gone very well so far.


Passengers have been invited to share their cabbie experiences with the hashtag “#yourtaxis” and swiftly inundated the campaign’s Twitter page with horror stories.


The complaints range from the inconvenient to the very serious.


Twitter user Charlotte Harrison says she booked a taxi to the airport, only for it to drive straight past her, leaving her standing in pouring rain.


“Then when I called dispatch they said it was too late for him to come back to collect me. I could see the cab up the street,” she writes.


Another tweeter, Mariah Rose, says she was “forced out of a cab whilst alone, intoxicated in unfamiliar area. Cab had taken fare and driven away from my friends”.


The Victorian Taxi Association (VTA), which runs the page, is doing its best to respond to the barrage of criticism. Its team are condemning bad driver etiquette and encouraging complainants to email with more details about their experiences.


But the VTA rejects some users’ suggestion the campaign has failed, tweeting, “YourTaxis proving a great opportunity for us to talk about our service with customers.”


Meanwhile, some of the taxi drivers’ worst experiences are detailed on the new YourTaxis website.


Many of the anecdotes are about customers failing to pay. One driver remembers dropping a woman home only for her card to be declined.


“She said she was very sorry and she would fix the fare up tomorrow and left me her driver’s licence. I agreed to this and told her have a nice night. It’s been two months and I still have her driver’s licence and she hasn’t paid,” says one driver.


It certainly seems the new PR strategy has done little to ease the tension between the taxi industry and the general public, more of whom are abandoning the traditional cab in favour of rideshare service Uber.


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